Published Date: September 12, 2016
Abigail keeps on asking great questions!
Here is her latest:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:23 refers to the Israelite people as being foreigners and sojourners…temporary residents of the land. That is the reason given for the mandate to include the right of redemption in any land purchase (which is actually a crop purchase since the land reverts back in yovel-jubilee.)
I am curious about the wording of foreigner and sojourner. I thought Hashem was giving the land to the Israelites. Am I misunderstanding? This wording seems to say He is not.
Thank you Abigail! it is a pleasure to see such an observant student.
First of all, the translations “foreigners and sojourners” of the words “gayreem ve-toshaveem” have the handicap of virtually all translations – they take a single meaning of the word or phrase and limit it to just that. Other acceptable translations for those words would be “residents and residents.”
Really, what I think we are looking at is a question of subjectivity. Compared to the other nations, the Israelite people were given the entire Land of Canaan=Israel, in an everlasting covenant from God. No other nation can possibly consider any relationship with this Land because, as the ancient Jewish sages said, It is God’s land, and He can decide what He wants to do with it.
But on the same token, God’s covenant must be considered conditional from the Israelite People’s perspective. The entire Bible emphasizes this as its main theme! If we follow God’s commandments, we will merit to stay in the Land and enjoy it; but if we stray from His dictates, then He will exile us from that Land.
As Moses exhorts in Deuteronomy 10:12: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” And as the theme continues in Deuteronomy 11:13-21, which observant Jews recite twice or more every single day.